My latest Best Reads of 2011-2012

So this isn't the first time, I've catalogued my most favorite reads.  I'm not going to list the exhaustive thing from last time and if that's not enough, you're always encouraged to visit my GoodReads library. However for this post, I'm going to cover significant books since that last posting.

Some interesting trends on these books.

1.  A lot less fiction.  

Clearly, the career change has resulted in redirecting more nonfiction books overall, but a lot more of those are proving more thought-provoking than much of the fiction I've enjoyed.  There's also the fact that I continue to read several fiction graphic novels such as Fables, DMZ, and Walking Dead.  Added to that has been a few new (or previously unmentioned series).  Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire (who is quickly rivalling my other two favorite comic writers:  Bill Willingham of Fables, and Robert Kirkman of The Walking Dead and Invincible) has proved enjoyable. Brian Michael Bendis's Powers series has sucked me in with great delight.  I devour Mark Waid's Irredeemable and Incorruptible books and Mike Carey's Unwritten series is a great extension of Fables in some ways.

2.  Many books focus on our relation with technology and that makes sense given my job.

  However, I'm looking to create and have more sustain discussions about the nuance of digital media and social networks.  Many fall into several of the pre-established silos (a post for another time) and I think we do a disservice to ourselves and our possibilities (or concerns) by doing so.  Hence, I'm continuing to devour books engaged in this debate.

3.  Less books on consumerism and the environment.  

I'm not sure if this is a result of losing interest in these matters or if I'm not finding some of the arguments as compelling or new.

Unequivocally, the best book I've read in the last year is Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.  There is no other book that has been more compelling (despite being a massive 800+ pages).  For a brief introduction to the book, I highly recommend his Ted Talk.  No other book has made me feel so optimistic enough about the future of humankind.

Contrastly, the worst book of the year was Fred Saberhagen's The Frankenstein Papers.  As a follow up to his The Dracula Tapes (in which Dracula tells his story of what happened), this story was meant to tell the true story from the creature's perspective.  It didn't deliver and its deus ex machina ending made me drop the book in a WTF moment that I'm still flabergasted about.  It reminded me of the JR treatment in the show Dallas.

Without further rambling (though some rambling with some titles), I give you the list.

Technology and Culture

  • I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy by Lori Andrews
  • The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive by Brian Christian
  • The Smart Swarm: How Understanding Flocks, Schools, and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making, and Getting Things Done by Peter Miller
  • You are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier
  • Revolution 2:0: A Memoir and Call to Action by Wael Ghonim
  • The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories by Frank Rose
  • Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger
  • Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution by Jim Blascovich
  • Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age is Revolutionizing Life, Business, and Society by Jeff Jarvis
  • Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back by Robert Levine
  • What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption by Rachel Botsman
  • The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking by Mark Bauerlein
  • The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser
  • Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell
  • Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson
  • Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business by David Edery
  • Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America by Jeff Ryan
  • Fun Inc.: Why Play is the 21st Century's Most Serious Business by Tom Chatfield
  • Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age by Douglas Rushkoff

Consumerism and Environmentalism

  • The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World by Paul Gilding
  • New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change by Winifred Gallagher
  • Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution by Auden Schendler
  • The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do by Eduardo Porter
  • Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, Updated and Revised Edition by Paco Underhill

Education-Related

  • Popular Culture : A User's Guide by Susie O'Brien
  • The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course by Linda Nilson (Check out my more detailed discussion of this book here).
  • Why Don't Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham
  • The Global Achievement Gap: Why Our Kids Don't Have the Skills They Need for College, Careers, and Citizenship--and What We Can Do About It by Tony Wagner

News Media 

  • Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate by Juan Williams
  • The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine David Brock
  • The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media by Brooke Gladstone

Writing

  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • How to Write a Dirty Story: Reading, Writing, and Publishing Erotica by Susie Bright

Books I Should Have Read By Now (and finally did)

  • Mythologies: The Complete Edition, in a New Translation by Roland Barthes
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

Fiction 

  • Horror Stories by Jack Kilborn
  • Ayako by Osamu Tezuka
  • Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain

Misc Nonfiction

  • The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us by James W. Pennebaker,
  • Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
  • Twenty-five Books That Shaped America: How White Whales, Green Lights, and Restless Spirits Forged Our National Identity by Thomas C Foster
  • Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World by Sam Sommers
  • 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
  • The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
  • The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family by Dan Savage
  • Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What it Means to Be Black Now by TourĂ©
  • Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror by Jason Zinoman
  • The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid
  • Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human by Grant Morrison
  • Monsters of the Gevaudan: The Making of a Beast by Jay Smith
  • The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip G. Zimbardo

What are some of your favorite reads in the last year?  What did you think of these?



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